Engaging with the Visual: Re-Thinking Interpretive Archaeological Visualisation

Alice Watterson, Paul Chapman (Supervisor), Jeremy Huggett (Supervisor)

Research output: Other contribution


Archaeology is a visually rich discipline with multiple avenues for visualisation within the field. In recent years the rising dominance of digital techniques for archaeological three dimensional surveys and interpretive visualisation has resulted in a rapid uptake of technologies without adequate assessment of their impact on the interpretive process and practitioner engagement. As such, fundamental issues with their application remain problematic and largely unresolved. This research moves the current debate forward by assessing the practices and practical application of visualisation within archaeology in order to understand and develop its role when framed within academic research practice.

Through the observation, exploration and collaboration of various techniques and approaches to visualising the archaeological record this research challenges common preconceptions and assumptions associated with ‘reconstruction’, redefining its role within the field by investigating the following research questions:

In what way is a practitioner’s interpretive engagement with an archaeological site mediated by different data capture and visualisation methods in the field?

How might practitioners of archaeological visualisation combine the creative and subjective methods of storytelling and visual expression with the more systematic and traditional means of data collection and visualisation to create dynamic and challenging imagery which promote cognition?

How can we foreground and communicate the importance of the interpretive process involved in the creation of engaging visualisations to general audiences?

Using a series of case-studies from sites managed by Historic Scotland on both St Kilda and Orkney the research will consider each stage of the visualisation process in detail, from collection of digital spatial and visual data in the field, to the creation of engaging three dimensional models and animations, to consumption of the output by varying audiences across a range of settings. The overall aim is to develop a clearer understanding of the ways in which interpretive archaeological visualisation and the creation of subjective narratives influences engagement with the site, the integrity of the captured record, the control of experience and the ways of dealing with uncertainty in the archaeological record in order to establish where and how it may sit within a broader academic framework.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD Thesis
PublisherGlasgow School of Art
Number of pages157
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • archaeology
  • reconstruction
  • visualisation
  • Skara Brae
  • St Kilda


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